The Un-Virtual

It was our first time visiting this church, so my senses were keyed up. We were worshiping with my brother and his family on a recent trip out of state. Nametags and energetic welcomes suggested a diverse and friendly group of people gathered here. The building was mostly stone inside and out, so the acoustics were terrific. And subtle, out-of-view LED lighting allowed for the front to be washed with a Lent-appropriate purple.

But what really struck me was the worship folder.

Even before the pandemic, worship folders and bulletins seemed to be getting smaller and smaller as churches increasingly moved toward projecting text and music on digital screens. But the folders we received at the church we were visiting included many pages, and inside was a letter of welcome from the pastor, the congregation’s mission and vision statements, and a list of planned activities and ways to get involved—plus the full liturgy for the service we were part of.

I like technology as much as anyone, but to hold something so tangible in my hands was a treat. I also wonder if there’s something good about seeing the whole printed service rather than responding to a flashing screen as if reading a teleprompter.

This visit happened around the same time as an office move back home. Going through some older files, I came across something—something to hold in your hands—that our church had done for Advent and Christmas some years back.

All Hands On Deck

This little booklet, with a heavier cover and four 8.5″ x 11″ sheets folded in half, was stapled but also adorned with gold elastic cord. It had 43 songs and readings that were used and sometimes reused, and lots of words. To broaden the audience to include children, there are things we could have done better. Here are some things I wish we had included:

  1. Despite what we all know about the Nativity, we don’t know much about the place where Christ child was born. Ask kids if they’ve ever seen a barn or a feeding trough and ask them to draw it or other things they imagine might have been part of the scene.
  2. Kids love extremes. Ask them to draw the largest and the smallest animals that might have been present in the place where Jesus was born.
  3. Hand out simple five-pointed star shapes and challenge children to make them the most special and fancy stars they can—special enough to make someone want to get closer to it if they saw it in the sky.

Pretty straightforward, right? That’s intentional. Avoid your adult need to explain too much. Challenge your kids with the assignment, let them fly with it, and then listen thoughtfully to their explanations. Rather than correct what might be “wrong” or different, wonder aloud with them why they did what they did. Better yet, do the activity yourself along with the child and explain your decisions to each other.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 145 © September 2022, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.